Immigration Minister Jason Kenney today named 27 countries he deems "safe" for the purposes of dealing with refugee claims in Canada.
One day before his omnibus refugee bill C-31 is to be implemented, Kenney on Friday listed 25 countries in the European Union, as well as Croatia and the United States, whose refugee claims have been deemed by the Canadian government as being largely unfounded or "bogus." Romania and Bulgaria are not on the list.
Refugee claimants from the 27 countries will be fast-tracked with no right of appeal for a negative decision.
Hungary, which has generated a spike in claims from ethnic Roma, is on the list. Mexico is not on the list.
The placement of EU countries on the list is thought to be designed to remove a major irritant in the process of negotiating a Canadian trade agreement with the EU.
The following countries are designated as safe countries of origin:
Those countries will be on what's called the Designated Country of Origin List. Additional countries will be designated in the months following the implementation of the new system.
Refugee claimants from those countries will:
- Be given less time to prepare their claims before a hearing.
- Have no opportunity to appeal a negative decision before the new appeal division within the Immigration and Refugee Board.
- Will have only 45 days until their hearing if they make a claim at the border; 30 days if they make an inland claim.
- Be subject to much faster removal times once a claim is rejected.
- Will be allowed to appeal for a judicial review if their claim is rejected, but they could be deported before that.
- Like all failed claimants will not be allowed to appeal on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, or ask for a pre-removal risk assessment, until one year after their claim is rejected, by which time they would likely be deported.
- Will not be eligible for basic and emergency health care (other than the treatment of conditions raising public health or safety issues).
According to the new law's wording, countries can be placed on the list if their claims have a rejection rate of at least 75 per cent at the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, or a withdrawn and abandoned rate of at least 60 per cent. But Kenney has reserved the right to place any country on the list if he deems the country to be democratic, with an independent judiciary.
Refugee advocates say the new rules will lead to more mistakes in the refugee determination process, and could see people sent back to persecution or even death in their home countries.
They have also criticized the government's and Kenney's use of the term "bogus" to describe claimants that have produced a spike in claims in recent years.
Friday, Kenney said that EU countries have been the number 1 source of asylum claims in the past three years, more from Hungary than from Iran, China or North Korea combined.
Kenney said that 98 per cent of Hungarian refugee claimants around the world choose to make their claims in Canada though they have unrestricted, visa-free access to dozens of countries around the world.
"Virtually none of them turn out to be well-founded," he said.
Kenney said that the majority of Hungarian refugee are rejected by the Immigration and Refugee Board, or withdraw or abandon their claims, or do not show up for hearings.